By Callie Hietala
If disaster strikes, are you ready? The Henry County Department of Public Safety’s Get Through 72 program reminds residents of a good rule of thumb during a power outage, winter storm, flood, or other emergency—have enough supplies on hand to get through at least 72 hours, or 3 days, of isolation.
“There’s a mindset that we’ve seen that people assume there’s enough help to come help them if there’s a disaster,” said Henry County Department of Public Safety Deputy Director and Training Division Chief Suzie Helbert.
That is not always the case, particularly now when “we’re already shorthanded,” she said. Additionally, if roads are damaged, flooded, or otherwise impassable, it may be impossible for even a fully staffed emergency crew to reach some homes immediately.
The department encourages households to stock at least a 3-day supply of certain items. Some items, such as water, non-perishable food, and prescription medications, may seem obvious but others, such as emergency cash to cover expenses such as fuel, lodging, and meals for their families (credit and debit cards may not work at locations like grocery stores or gas stations in the event of a power or internet outage); copies of prescriptions; and pet supplies, may be things people do not immediately consider having on hand in the event of an emergency.
An extra store of oxygen in the home for those who are reliant on it is essential, Helbert said, and something that EMS cannot supply. “EMS doesn’t have excess oxygen,” she said, adding that emergency crews often get calls from residents requesting oxygen when their supply is running low. “They need to get those (tanks) from their supplier.”
Other items people should consider stocking are a flashlight, a multipurpose tool, batteries, warm clothing and sturdy shoes, blankets and/or sleeping bags, a first aid kit, paper towels, toilet paper, toothpaste, and infant formula and diapers (if needed).
In the event of an evacuation, residents should be prepared to bring critical documents (including those of any pets they may have) with them. These include a driver’s license or other identification, medical and vaccination records, wills, birth certificates, social security cards, and tax records.
Pets are another consideration for some households, Helbert said. In addition to ensuring your furry friends have a sufficient supply of food and any medications they may need, crate training your dog or cat can be very helpful in an emergency situation.
“It’s a great service to your pet to crate train them when they’re little,” Helbert said, adding that the training isn’t difficult and can benefit both the pet and pet-owner. If your household has to go to a shelter or if your pet has to go to a separate shelter, “you don’t want them to freak out in a crate.” That could create a stressful situation both for the pet-owner and the pet, she cautioned.
In addition to preparing for an emergency, Helbert said the best way for residents to stay informed during an incident is by signing up for the CodeRed Emergency Alert system. “People can put in their landline, mobile phone number, and email to receive alerts pertinent to Henry County,” said Helbert. “We do understand that many people do not have internet or are not comfortable with technology, but we encourage them to get a family member or friend to sign up for them so they can still receive alerts.”
The department’s social media pages, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, will also be updated with emergency information, “but the CodeRed messaging will go out first.”
Residents of Martinsville and Henry County can sign up for CodeRed at www.henrycountyva.gov/emergency-notification-system.
Helbert reminded residents that 911 should be called only when an immediate response from emergency personnel is required. Too often, she said, the service is dialed for non-emergent situations. A few important numbers for residents to have on hand are:
*Henry County Sheriff’s Office: (276) 656-4200
*Martinsville Police Department: (276) 403-5300
*Virginia State Police: (800) 542-5959
*Appalachian Power Outages: 1-800-956-4237
*Martinsville Electric Department: (276) 403-5183
*Public Service Authority (PSA): (276) 634-2500
*SPCA: (276) 638-7297
“The more each individual and family can prepare themselves to ‘Get Through 72,’ the more resilient our whole community will be during major disasters,” said Helbert. “In fact, we encourage folks to take that a step further and reach out to their neighbors, extended family, church, or civic organization and talk with each other about working together to prepare and look out for each other during an emergency.”
She said that “another way community members can help is to consider volunteering with their local rescue squad or fire department. There is something for everyone to contribute.” Anyone interested in volunteering can visit their local fire department or rescue squad or find their local stations online at www.henrycountyva.gov/henry-county-volunteer-fire-and-ems-agencies.
For a useful emergency preparedness checklist, visit www.vaemergency.gov/attachments/emergency-kit/. Helbert said another useful resource for preparing to protect yourself during an emergency is www.ready.gov.